By Wade Muller
For the past several years, Westown Ford has teamed up with the United States Marine Corps to serve as a pickup point for Toys For Tots. At present, two tall boxes stand in the Westown showroom, one labeled “Nick” and the other “Jim.” According to Nick Xamis, he and Jim Birdsell make the drive fun by having a contest to see which box can collect the most toys. Part of the shenanigans include the two secretly moving toys from one box to the other or sneaking out toward the end of the drive to buy enough toys to secure victory in the contest.
The history of the program is intriguing and long standing. The Marine Corps began its Toys for Tots initiative in 1947, and the first drive that year distributed 5,000 toys in the greater Los Angeles area. Since then, Toys for Tots has grown into a yearly national initiative that delivers around 18 million toys to children in need across the country. Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks started the program strictly out of need, when he could not find an organization that was able to distribute the handcrafted dolls made by his wife Diane to children who were without dolls for the Christmas holiday.
Over the years, Toys for Tots has enlisted the help of such celebrities as Walt Disney, who designed the first ever Toys for Tots poster, and Nat King Cole, who recorded the Toys for Tots theme. In the early 1960s, the New York Yankees got involved with collecting toys at one of their home games, and since then, nearly every professional sports league has taken part in helping collect toys for the cause during the Christmas season. The organization has donated toys to families in times of need, such as Hurricane Andrew and 9/11, and First Ladies Barbara Bush and Michelle Obama were both highly active in the initiative during their respective husbands’ presidencies.
Aside from the fun and games between Nick and Jim, Westown Ford is delighted to be affiliated with Toys for Tots as one of its local pickup points. Furthermore, a large part of my personal appreciation for being at Westown Ford is watching how freely and generously our dealership gives back to our community, and how hard we work to support local philanthropic causes. Toys are being collected through the end of the first week in December. If you are reading this and are able to help, please stop into Westown Ford with a toy for either or both boxes. We have already collected several toys, but we can always use more to ensure that families of need in our community can provide some joy for their children at Christmas time. Please note that Toys for Tots only accepts brand new toys, and they can be delivered to our store unwrapped.